Igniting Workplace Enthusiasm

Staff On-Board or Over Board?


Recruit and retain must be the mantra for all of us in Japan. If you have been following me, you will know I have been talking about the coming demographic crunch of not enough young people to go around, for the last two years. A number of years ago we had 40% plus of the new recruits fleeing their companies, after getting trained. They were heading off to greener pastures, which they no doubt discovered were not all that green after all. The current number is in the low 30 percentile area and the bad news is it will start to rise again.

We have all seen the news broadcasts of truckloads of the young all wearing exactly the same outfits, sitting diligently in their rows at the major firms recruiting intake in April, at the start of the new financial year. This will continue of course, but the mid-career hiring of the young will become the new black for HR people in Japan.
As the young discover they are in demand and are being scouted, they will start leaving the firms that have already invested in them, in much bigger numbers. The recruiters will be spending much of their time poaching them, even though the fees are not large, because the volume will get them interested. They will be recycling them every couple of years, because that will become the trend in the free agent era of work in Japan. Get them early and keep moving them around, clipping the fee ticket every two to three years. So the "retain" component of company strategy is critical. Well when should we start the retain strategy and who do we apply it to?
Some ancient grey beards believe that losing thirty percent plus of your young is a good thing, because it filters out the losers and troublemakers. It is a type of "generational cleansing" exercise in their minds. That may have been the case in the past perhaps, but today the replacements are not there in numbers anymore.
The retain part of a companies activities must begin from the moment they agree to come on board. Buyer’s remorse is a well known concept in the world of sales, as we come to doubt our own judgment, when we make a big purchase decision. Changing jobs is a major decision too and the prospective candidate can have doubts after agreeing to come onboard. We have to keep in touch with them and keep reassuring them that they have made the best decision.
We can also anticipate that the ferocity of the incumbent employer’s counterattack will go up many more notches, as they realize replacing people is a lot harder than offering them more money to stay. Hint to employers – give your people more money, so they won’t leave, rather than offering it after they tell you they are leaving. The time and productivity lost from the departed, the internal friction their leaving creates and the burden of finding and then on-boarding their replacement are all expensive items.
So the mid-career hire finally arrives. That is right singular, not plural, because they will not come in droves, but instead one at a time. In larger firms, the HR function are there to on-board them and arrange the paperwork, training etc. Is what they are currently doing up to scratch? Probably they have been doing the same thing for many years, so the process is mostly on auto-pilot. But what is the quality of what they are doing? Has anyone done a recent audit of how the new folk are being brought into the warm bosom of the company? Has anyone asked those recently onboarded how they felt about the process? If we are aware we are already in the war for retaining talent, we should take a long, cold hard look at what we are doing getting them on-board.
For smaller firms, there may be no process for mid-career hires, beyond the most rudimentary. We make sure they will get paid, insured, given a desk, phone etc. This is not enough. Small company bosses are very busy and may not be allocating much time for the new recruits. This is an expensive, pseudo time saving energy allocation. The boss has to be more involved than in the past. We have to go back and carefully look at getting the boss more involved, plus the other seniors in the firm. We have the future in our charge now, so we have to start treating them like what they are – gold!
A full daily programme of briefings, self-study, mentoring, training has to be planned well in advance of their arrival. They need to know there is a plan – that says a lot to them about the quality of who they have joined. The good news is once you have created a template, this can be applied to the future mid-career hires as well. No template? Then life gets random, ad hoc and in short order it also gets hard.
Spend the time designing it well and get the needed briefing appointments into the calendars of busy people. We have to create a sense of "I have joined a well organised and welcoming new home for me, the new recruit". If we start well then the chance of keeping them will also improve substantially. First impressions do count, so we had better design the one we want.



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